Schools' computer misses operational deadline

But city says Jan. start-up won't cost more money

October 16, 2003|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

A $16 million computer system Baltimore school officials bought to make their payroll, staffing and budgeting functions run more smoothly won't be fully operational until January - six months past the promised start-up date. But the delay won't cost the school district more money, officials said yesterday.

The Human Resources Management System - a software package intended to streamline several of the school system's largest management functions - was scheduled to be running by July 1. Software problems delayed the start, and during the summer some school administrators, including the district's Chief Technology Officer Joseph Kirkman, estimated that the glitches would cost the school district tens of thousands of dollars each month that full implementation was delayed.

However, that estimate proved to be high, Kirkman said yesterday, and the software problems have been fixed since last month.

Now, the holdup is correcting thousands of errors, such as job classifications and workplaces, in the old payroll system - which is being run by the city - in order to transfer more accurate records into the new system, Kirkman said.

"We've got to be absolutely certain that the information in that database is 100 percent accurate," Kirkman said.

In addition, Kirkman said, some school district employees need to be trained how to input payroll information into the system and approve the information once it has been entered.

All those things should be done by January, Kirkman said.

"We always said that July was a target," he said. "But we would never force implementation before we were ready. We would never be so foolish as to create that kind of disaster."

Kirkman also said the delay has helped save the schools money because workers in his department have had time to learn how to run the program without continuing to pay expensive consultants.

The estimated total cost to buy and set up the new computer system had included payments to independent contractors beyond July 1 to assist in smooth implementation. But district staff members have become so proficient in running the system, Kirkman said, all but a few consultants have been let go.

Even though the district is paying the city $65,000 a month to handle employee payroll, Kirkman said he anticipates that by January the computer program will come in at about $67,000 less than originally planned.

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